This doctor's shocking behavior is a reminder that mental health stigma must end now.
Samuel Bardwell had a bad anxiety attack, so his father took him to the emergency room.
Samuel was playing basketball when he noticed the signs of an impending attack. He had been prescribed an as-needed anti-anxiety medication, but he didn't have any on-hand.
And as his symptoms got worse — vomiting, loss of consciousness — it was clear he needed medical intervention.
Samuel was seeking medical help for a diagnosed condition, but the emergency room physician humiliated him.
According to Samuel's father, Donald Bardwell, when the physician walked in, she didn't introduce herself, ask what was wrong, or perform an examination — instead, she immediately began ranting about Bardwell's condition and his reasons for being there. All the while, Samuel begged her for medication.
At one point, the Bardwells say, the physician's rhetoric became racist: Donald and Samuel are black and the doctor — now identified as Beth Keegstra of El Camino Hospital in Los Gatos, California — accused them of seeking drugs. That's when the elder Bardwell began filming.
It got worse, with Keegstra swearing at Samuel, then twisting his words to claim he'd asked for "narcotics," when all he'd done was ask for something — anything — that could help him feel better.
"You [Samuel] are the least sick of all the people who are here, who are dying. So you put your head up," Keegstra can be heard saying in the video. "Don't try to tell me you can't move. Come on. Sit up."
Anxiety attacks can be incredibly scary — and reaching out for help often isn't easy.
If you've never had an anxiety attack, here's what you need to know: They can be terrifying and are almost impossible to control. One second, you can feel your heart start pumping a little faster, and the next, you're struggling to breathe and feeling you'll soon perish of a heart attack or an embolism you never knew you had.
These attacks aren't dangerous in themselves (in fact, they can't actually kill you), but in the moment, when it feels like both your mind and your body are conspiring against you, it's hard to even tell what's real anymore.
As someone who's experienced many anxiety attacks — and has been to the emergency room several times fearing legitimate heart attacks — I can tell you that there's nothing you need more than a physician who's understanding.
Keegstra was suspended after the Bardwells posted the video of her berating them, but that's only a temporary measure. If there's one thing this video makes clear, it's how difficult it can be to get help for mental illness. And that's why so many people hide it.
Those who live with mental illness already know that friends and family can be slow to understand what it's like to experience anxiety and depression. But a physician treating a patient in crisis like this is a painful reminder of why it's so hard to reach out for help.
After all, if someone whose job it is is to take care of you thinks you're faking, what's the point of speaking out?
Samuel's experience with this doctor is a reminder there's still a long way to go in mental health care.
And once you watch the full video below, I think you'll agree: We need to do better.